Les Crudettes imagine the salad of the future thanks to aeronautics

Les Crudettes imagine the salad of the future thanks to aeronautics

In Châteauneuf-sur-Loire (Loiret), in an experimental greenhouse, the future of lettuce and aromatic plants is being played out. Agronomists and an R&D department have been working since 2013 on innovative and environmentally friendly aerospace production: this is the Cap Vert des Crudettes project, one of the leaders in the food industry, a subsidiary of the LSDH group (Saint Denis de l ‘Hotel), a pioneer of green salad in bags, mixed salads and raw vegetables ready to eat all year round.

By Estelle Boutheloup

Aeroponics is an above-ground production system where the roots are sprayed with a nutrient solution identical to that present in the soil. Here is a production of aromatic herbs. Photo: Les Crudettes

Produce French all year round, offer ultra-fresh and healthy products, protected from excess weather, in a dry space to limit disease, without any chemical treatment, with 90% less water and limiting the trace of carbon, here is the ecologically virtuous Bet of the company Les Crudettes, specialists in salads in sacks and other raw vegetables ready to be eaten all year round.

For this, neither field nor land, but a greenhouse 3000 m2 in aeronautics. “ A production system that consists of spraying a nutrient solution, identical to that found naturally in the soil, in the roots of lettuce and aromatic plants », explains Armel Collon, Director of Purchasing and Supply Chain in the factory sector of La Laiterie de Saint Denis de l’Hôtel. Roots immersed in darkness in the open air like those of these new plants of lettuce, oak leaves, batavia and aromatic plants that grow in 25 meters of linear culture: “According to these models, a mobile robot automatically sprays the plant, which catches only a few drops. Sprayed unused water leaves in a closed circuit, ie a saving of 90% of water compared to an identical crop in soil where only a small part is used by the plant without forgetting the washing in the factory. »

Shift the salad production

In operation since the end of 2019, this greenhouse with a capacity of 13,000 salads and aromatic leaves nothing to chance and tests all development factors. In an adjacent laboratory deprived of natural light, various tests are performed on the quality of nutrition, the size of the sprayed spots or even the lights, the prism of which varies from light pink to fuchsia: “Red participates in the development of leaves, while blue acts on the structure of the leaf. » Further, a final section houses a 60-meter-long and 12-meter-wide tunnel where lettuces complete their development until maturity before harvest.
An experimental project of 4 million euros, which will serve as a springboard for the erection in 2022 of a greenhouse on a larger scale of 7000 m2, unique in Europe, dedicated to aromatic plants and of 7 million euros, in the place of Laiterie in Saint. Denis-de-l’Hotel. “The idea is not to do things for producers. But to develop a technology that can not be applied to agricultural land and show that it is possible and then offer it to them. It is part of the agriculture of tomorrow in addition to conventional production. Production in the full field is about 300 tons per ha per year. Here is 950 tons. »

The experimental greenhouse in Châteauneuf-sur-Loire can produce 13,000 lettuces and herbs in a fully controlled area, from the new plant to the finished product. Photo: Les Crudettes

Moreover, the challenge is environmental for the company Les Crudettes, which takes salads and aromatic herbs from 300 market gardeners, including 200 French. “This will make it possible to shift production throughout the year, which today comes from Spain or southern Italy for the winter campaign. But also to escape the growing climate risks: devastating storms, heavy rain… “ Another advantage: the absence of foreign bodies or even the increase of the date of use from 2 to 4 days thanks to the reduction of the time between harvesting and processing. “Ultimately for the Crudettes, it has to be completely autonomous in its production, completes Armel Collonand why not duplicate these ecosystems near consumption areas to supply local authorities (schools, hospital canteens, etc.) or supermarkets in an agglomeration, etc.

Photo of Une Les Crudettes

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